Saturday, December 20, 2014

A last look at Ratmansky's Nutcracker

I first saw Alexei Ratmansky's Nutcracker at the at its premiere four years ago. I remember it being an exciting, expensive event -- seats in the upper reaches of BAM's claustrophobic balcony were nearing triple digits. Since then I've never been back, because despite the charms of Ratmansky's take, it didn't feel as magical as Balanchine's version for the NYCB. But this year it was announced that Ratmansky's Nut would be moving out of BAM forever (!!!). A look at ticket sales a few weeks before the performance hinted why: even with heavily discounted tickets, tickets were easy to get. In short, it was critically lauded but poor box office. So last I went back to get a last look at this Nutcracker. I'll probably never see it again.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Marina Rebeka

I heard the fairly amazing Decmeber 16 performance of La Traviata and found a new soprano to follow -- Marina Rebeka. My review for parterre box is here. Besides Rebeka, the revival is well-worth seeing for baritone Quinn Kelsey.

An excerpt from my review:

Rebeka has an energy and spirit that resembles the hearty lasses in Littlefinger’s whorehouse rather than delicate flower Marie. But to her credit, she didn’t aim for that weak frailty—there was no overdone coughing or making the voice paper-thin for Act Three. It was a straightforward, well-sung Violetta and she had a lot of horsepower for the big moments.
In the Act Two concertato you heard her firm, bell-like sound ride over the chorus and orchestra. She was able to swell her voice for “Amami Alfredo” and the final “Oh gioia!” If she didn’t quite convince you that she was wasting away from a terminal illness, she wasn’t pretentious either, and it was never difficult or unpleasant to listen to her. She got a well-deserved standing ovation at the end of the opera.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The FAB-ulous Boheme!

Omg omg omg. This will be brief since I have to write the Parterre Box review. But tonight I saw the unexpected (but totally FAB-ulous) role debut of Michael Fabiano as Rodolfo at the Met, as well as the return of grand diva Angela Gheorghiu. It really was one of those amazing nights and I did one of my rare stage door groupie trips. Amazing cast, amazing performance.

Update: my review for parterre box.

What a diva, just ignore the tiny face next to her. Seriously, Angela is as larger-than-life offstage as she is onstage. She was traveling with an entourage of like 20 people and enough flowers to fill a wedding. Notice the fabulous matching gloves and the completely new stage makeup.

Stage door people were calling him Mr. Fabulous. I think this name will stick. Personally, I warned him that I'm turning into a groupie. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

 The very nice, handsome David Bizic, who is one of those people who is 1000x cuter offstage than onstage. And his beautiful wife is as beautiful as ever. 

Susanna Phillips, and yes, she's as adorable and charming as she looks in this photo. 

Matthew Rose, who is about 7 feet tall, so this photo is all optical illusion. But seriously, great voice.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Guglielmo Tell

I'll be honest: for the longest time I didn't know much about Rossini's William Tell except that its famous overture was the "Lone Ranger" theme. I also knew the tenor part was so murderously difficult that almost no one can sing it and it's supposed to be almost five hours or so uncut. This afternoon's rousing performance of Guglielmo Tell (thus called because the Italian translated version was used) at Carnegie Hall was my first live experience of this wonderful opera. It was one of those happy, music-affirming, life-affirming experiences that left the audience giddy with joy.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Recent Russki stuff I've seen

Before Thanksgiving break I saw two works which really represent the polar opposites of "Russian art." The Mikhailovsky Ballet closed out its tour with performances of that old warhorse Don Quixote, while over at the Metropolitan the "hot" ticket was Shostakovich's Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, a work that so offended that aesthete Josef Stalin that the work was banned for decades.

Don Quixote is a merry spin-off of one of the episodes in the Cervantes novel, but really, it's an excuse for Russian ballet companies to show off the virtues of Russian ballet companies. Their "the show must go on, otherwise I'm getting sent to a gulag" spirit is very much alive -- in the two performances of Don Quixote that I saw, every variation and character dancer seized the spotlight with an eagerness that was endearing. They made every sashay of the skirt or swing of the fan wonderfully vibrant. The way they beam at the audience after a well-danced solo turn is enough to warm the heart of the worst curmudgeon.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Vintage Flames of Paris clips

I went back for another performance of Flames of Paris this afternoon and enjoyed myself even more. Angelina Vorontsova (Jeanne) was a real charmer -- not as technically strong as Bondareva, but sweeter, more of an ingenue type. And her technique is way stronger than what youtube clips would suggest. Performance just flowed with energy and fun. And the little girl in the last act was adorable.

Other things I noticed: a beautiful corps de ballet girl of African descent. You don't usually see this in a Russian company. Did a little research and found out the girl was Olympiada Saurat Alfa N'gobi.

Here is Vorontsova with Zaytsev:

I also found these vintage clips.

Actor's pas de deux:

Flames of Paris, Character Dances:

Flames of Paris pas de deux:

A couple of thoughts: the Mikhailovsky and Mikhail Messerer has generally done an excellent job of preserving what's left of the extant Vainonen choreography. Whereas Ratmansky reworked the storyline to make it more palatable to modern audiences, he also made the ballet slightly more boring, without the raw energy and spirit of the original. The Messerer reconstruction embraces all the old-fashioned aspects of the ballet and runs with it. There's a little bit of something for everyone -- there's French court dance, folk dances, clog dances, Soviet lift pas de deux (the Freedom pas de deux), and good old fashioned bravura ballet. A fun time is had by all.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Flames of Paris

If the Mikhailovsky's Giselle was a strangely lifeless, depressing affair, their Flames of Paris is one of those good old-fashioned Russian extravaganzas that you can't help but love. Mikhail Messerer's production is a reconstruction of Stalin's favorite ballet (no joke). Uncle Joe apparently loved the cheerful, happy depiction of the French revolution, and it was a popular Soviet vehicle. Of course Vassily Vainonen's ballet eventually fell out of favor, but there's been this new-found interest in many of these dram-ballets. Alexei Ratmansky made his own reconstruction for the Bolshoi, and the Mikhailovsky followed suit last year. The Mikhailovsky's ballet apparently adhered much more to the 1932 original, but judging from how short the ballet is, I suspect a lot of filler was excised and we're left with Flames of Paris -- greatest hits!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Mikhailovsky's Lifeless, Leaden Giselle

I'm lucky enough to have seen Natalia Osipova's evolution in Giselle. I first saw her in this role when she debuted it with the ABT. That was 2009, five years ago. I remember that as a really special night at the ballet. Her Giselle was different -- she imbued those overfamiliar steps with her incredible elevation and ballon, and inhuman speed. Along with those remarkable dancing skills her interpretation I remember as being fresh and unpretentious. I also saw a 3-D film she made at the Mariinsky Ballet a year later, and another live performance in 2012, and another HD film she made with the Royal Ballet just this year.

Osipova's Giselle was never going to be to everyone's taste. Certain things don't come naturally to Osipova -- her face doesn't have the doll-like sweetness we expect in Giselle, and her style of dancing can come across as overly athletic and even aggressive. With that being said, I never thought I'd see her dance a Giselle as soulless and unmoving as the one I saw her dance tonight.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Show Boat

Last night I went to the New York Philharmonic's semi-staged rendition of the classic American musical Show Boat. I reviewed it for Parterre Box. An excerpt from the review:

If you are of the belief that Show Boat can stand on its own as a classic score and thus doesn’t need the trappings of musical production, you’ll love the New York Philharmonic’s “semi-staged” production. Conductor/director Ted Sperlingpresents the Jerome Kern/Oscar Hammerstein classic as almost entirely a concert opera. Only a thin backdrop of an old-fashioned river-boat set the scene. The singers and dancers were dressed in modern evening wear, and the action is limited to the thin apron of the Avery Fisher Hall stage. Sperling uses the entire Philharmonic, instead of the usual pared-down orchestra that’s typical for these musical presentations.  

Friday, October 31, 2014


I reviewed last night's performance of Aida at Parterre Box. A snip:
At the first intermission at last night’s Met revival of Aida, I turned to my companion and said, “So… what about the Aida? I thought she was supposed to be good.” 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Death of Klinghoffer

The premiere of Death of Klinghoffer is over. There were protests, but the crowd was smaller than expected. There was occasional in-house booing and disruptions (in particular one man kept shouting "The murder of Klinghoffer will never be forgiven") but the overall audience response was positive. John Adams received a rousing ovation. The controversy might live on, but now that the premiere is over, I hope actual dialogue of the opera can begin. Because, you know, now people have actually, uh, seen the opera.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Goodbye Wendy

On October 18, 2014 Wendy Whelan danced her last performance with the New York City Ballet. The house was jam-packed -- tickets sold out minutes after they went for general sale, and I met someone who had gotten a last minute ticket by arriving at 6 am for standing room. It was an emotional occasion. The stage was crowded with past and present NYCB dancers -- octogenarian Jacque d'Amboise delighted the audience by waltzing Wendy around during her lengthy curtain calls. There were former partners Damian Woetzel, Jock Soto, and Philip Neal, all looking handsome and elegant as ever. Many ABT dancers were spotted in the audience -- David Hallberg, Irina Dvorovenko, Gillian Murphy and Ethan Stiefel. It seems as if the entire dance world was there to pay tribute to this remarkable ballerina.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Macbeth, take 2

The opening night Macbeth was surprisingly sparsely attended but strong word of mouth quickly made subsequent shows sold out. Last night I decided to catch the second-to-last performance of Macbeth -- all the way up in the Family Circle, standing room.

First things first -- it's a cliché that sound is best in the Family Circle, but a very true one at that. Only in the upper rings of the Met do you get the full voice/orchestra balance, so the textures and nuances of orchestration that are missed in the lower rungs ring loud and clear from the upper rings. I heard details of Verdi's score that I never could have heard sitting in a prime orchestra seat.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Prima Ballerina Wendy

In less than two weeks, Wendy Whelan will retire from the New York City Ballet. It's definitely the Dance Event of the year. Tickets were notoriously hard to get -- I snagged two fourth ring tickets for $94 -- a minute later the whole show was sold out. The farewell will be a busy, emotional event, and I'm sure not many people will really remember the dancing. For that reason I bought a ticket to see Wendy this afternoon in La Sonnambula. I wanted to see her just dance a regular performance.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Review for Nozze di Figaro, Rene Pape

I reviewed last night's performance of Nozze di Figaro at parterre box. I'm pretty glad I won the lottery and didn't have to pay full price for it. I also reviewed the Rene Pape recital. Happy reading.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Balanchine in B&W and Color

The NYCB fall season. It only started a few years ago, but now I can't imagine life without it, and it's become maybe my favorite NYCB season. The dancers are fresh and rested from a summer off, the programming is usually full of Balanchine classics, and the weather's nice so you don't have to trudge home from the ballet in snow boots.

The 9/27 evening performance at the NYCB was a severe all Stravinsky, all B&W program: Apollo, Momentum Pro Gesualdo/Movements for Piano and Orchestra, Duo Concertant, and Agon. It's a testament to Balanchine's genius that not once did I think, "Wow, this is too many leotards against too much Stravinsky dissonance."

Thursday, September 25, 2014


There is a certain type of woman you sometimes meet who you know is an absolutely ball-busting coldhearted bitch, but for reasons known only to her insists on acting girlish, coy, and "sweet" in public. I feel like Anna Netrebko has been doing that schtick for the past few years. She's insisted on keeping ingenue roles like Norina, Adina, and Mimi in her repertoire even though neither her stage persona nor her voice really suited them anymore.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Spartacus - Soviet Superman!!!

There are so many ridiculous moments in Yuri Grigorovich's Spartacus that by rights, I should have hated it completely. The choreography for Spartacus and the slaves consists almost entirely of marching (the "goosestep"), leaping on a diagonal, chest-beating and sword-fighting. The choreography for Phyrgia consists entirely of being lifted like a sack of potatoes. The only remotely interesting choreography is for Crassus and Aegina. Crassus brandishes his penis extension (uh, I mean sword) in some truly convoluted ways, and Aegina is asked to shimmy, to lie on the floor and thrust her hips upwards, and then in Act Three, to do a pole dance in which she actually takes the pole and rubs it between her legs and shivers from the orgasm. The score by Aram Khachaturian takes a melody, and then repeats it about 10,000 times more.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Bolshoi's Don Quixote - Best Show in Town

Don Quixote has long been considered the Bolshoi Ballet's house special and touring warhorse. Wherever they go, audiences go crazy over the Bolshoi's boisterous, happy, busy depiction of a Spanish fairyland. The curtain rose tonight at the Koch Theater and the effect was the same -- the audience was bombarded with sashaying skirts, rustling maracas, banging tambourines, swaying fans, swinging capes, and the happy reaction said "Ah, so fun."

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Bolshoi's Swan Lake

There's a saying in ballet that says "Put Swan Lake on the billboard, and they will come." This certainly seemed the case tonight as the Bolshoi Ballet has kicked off its two week stay at the Koch Theater with a week a Swan Lakes. Well ... I think many of the audience were shocked, to say the least, that in the Bolshoi/Grigorovich version, there's no swan and no lake. In fact, audience reaction was muted, and it made for some awkward moments when the audience was dead silent and the dancers decided to come out for another bow.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Tsar's Bride - The Bolshoi Ride Into Town

There are certain works of art that for some reason hardly ever make the trip out of their homeland. Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov's Tsar's Bride has been relegated into that basket.   It's a regular in Russian opera companies but except for a recent La Scala production and a San Francisco production in 2000, the opera remains a Russian house special. Tonight the Bolshoi Opera brought this beautiful work for the first of two performance at Avery Fisher Hall.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Shakespeare at the ABT

At ABT, the big ticket items (Giselle, Swan Lake) are over. The guest artists have come and gone. The final week of the season ends with a low-key mixed bill and some Coppelias which mark the farewell for some talented but underused soloists (Yuriko Kajiya, Jared Matthews, and Sascha Radetsky). I caught a matinee performance of their "Shakespeare" mixed bill which pairs the tried-and-true (Ashton's The Dream) with the new (Ratmansky's The Tempest).

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Giselle at the ABT - Semionova and Cojocaru

Sometimes you really need to see a bad performance of a work to appreciate a great performance. I think I've always been spoiled when it comes to Giselle -- my very first Giselle was Diana Vishneva. Vishneva's portrayal is a modern classic -- her gothic intensity and sense of drama brings this tragedy to life. Since then I've seen Nina Ananiashvilli, Alina Cojocaru, Natalia Osipova, and Aurelie Dupont and Clairemarie Osta. Almost all of these ladies brought something special to the role. Dupont was a bit too cool for my tastes, Osta was at the end of her career and her technique sometimes lagged, Cojocaru always has trouble with the Spessivtseva variation, but whatever the case is, I never felt like I wasted my time and money at the theater.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Cinderella, 6/11/14 and 6/12/14

My favorite moments of Ashton's Cinderella have no actual dancing. My first favorite moment is when the in-drag stepsisters start throwing oranges in the air at the Prince's ball. My second is late in the third act, and Cinderella's stepsisters are sitting at home. They start playing pat-a-cake and Cinderella tries to joins them. They are both wonderfully human moments that, for one, makes the sisters not truly evil, but more silly and pitiable.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Diana's 10th Anniversary Gala; MSND at NYCB

At the conclusion of the 6/7 afternoon's performance of Manon at the ABT, Diana Vishneva was pelted with bouquets and confetti. It was a Very Special Occasion -- her 10th anniversary gala. It was anything a prima ballerina could have wanted in a gala. She was dancing her favorite role with her favorite partner (Marcelo Gomes) in front of an adoring audience. Irina Kolpakova came onstage to present her with flowers. Kevin McKenzie did the same as well. It was all very nice and heartwarming and thank you Diana for your commitment to the art form and your commitment to ABT.

Friday, June 6, 2014

OONY Roberto Devereux

I'm going to sound like Edith Wharton but the only way to describe OONY's Roberto Devereux at Carnegie Hall is: "Anyone who is anyone was there." By "anyone," I mean the hard-core opera fans. The fakes, the name-droppers, the star-fuckers weren't necessarily interested in 66-year old Mariella Devia's return/farewell to NYC. In fact, as of this morning, Carnegie Hall was heavily papering the event. But the real fans, the ones you see who really love opera, were all there. It was a joy to see so many faces that I hadn't seen for years -- it really was one of those nights.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

NYCB Mixed Bill - Millepied's Neverwhere Goes Nowhere

Somehow I missed Benjamin Millepied's Neverwhere when it debuted last fall. Today I caught up with it in an NYCB Sunday matinee mixed bill. The ballet certainly has a different look -- Iris van Herpen has the dancers dressed in black pleather, including pleather boot/pointe shoes for the women. The lighting is dark and moody and all about spotlights, a stark difference from the NYCB's usually brightly lit stage. Nico Muhly's score also has a dissonant post-modern edge.

Friday, May 30, 2014

La Bayabore, uh, I mean Bayadere

Olga Smirnova as Nikya
Is it possible to love a ballet to death? Because every time the ABT trots out Natalia Makarova's La Bayadere, I think the great Russian ballerina adored this ballet so much that she killed it. The La Bayadere that the Mariinsky/Bolshoi/Paris Opera Ballet do is a piece of East-meets-West exotica. Productions call for: a stuffed tiger, an elephant, girls who dance with birds attached to their wrists, kids in blackface (ugh), dancers in "brownface" beating wildly against a drum, and a woman balancing a jug on her head. In between all that schlock there's one of the greatest scenes in classical ballet ever choreographed (the Kingdom of the Shades).

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Jewels at the NYCB

Kowroski and Angle in Diamonds, photo @ Paul Kolnik
It's one of NYCB's quirks of programming that Peter Martins now likes to do excerpts of Jewels (Rubies here, Diamonds there) but hasn't actually put on a full-length Jewels in several years. The last time I saw a full-length Jewels, Wendy Whelan was in Diamonds. God, that seems so long ago.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

All Robbins

Jerome Robbins set four ballets to the music of Chopin. Of the four, The Concert was his earliest, and in my opinion, his greatest. It's a comic ballet that parodies, among other things, audience behavior at classical recitals, corps de ballet formations, marriage, 1920's social conventions, fashion, and butterflies. Even if you know where all the jokes are the ballet doesn't lose its freshness. There's none of that portentousness that creeped into later Robbins. It's a delightful piece that also needs real charmers. This afternoon's performance at the New York City Ballet had that in Sterling Hyltin as the ditz, Joaquin de Luz as the husband, and Lydia Wellington as the angry wife.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

All-Balanchine at NYCB,5/11/14 and 5/13/14

Ah, spring season of dance in NY. It's a time when people often have to replicate King Solomon and split the baby. "Ok, I'll choose to see NYCB Tuesday and the ABT Wednesday," they say, shedding real tears in the process. First world problems, but it can be painful. 

The NYCB often makes these choices even more painful by springing exciting last minute debuts with almost no advance notice. Or they will bring back a ballet into the repertory that's beloved by dance mavens but hardly ever done. Such was the case this week when they presented three different casts of their all-Balanchine program of Raymonda Variations, Steadfast Tin Soldier, Le Tombeau de Couperin, and Symphony in C. I attended the last two casts, the Sunday matinee (5/11) and tonight's performance (5/13).

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Golden Age of Tenors?

Today I decided to round out the season by seeing the final La Cenerentola in HD. I had already seen this production twice in the house, but with Javier Camarena as Don Ramiro. The HD performance had Juan Diego Florez. I can't really say who was better, when both are A+ singers. Camarena's voice is bigger, rounder, with a more ringing top, but he doesn't have the extraordinary facility with coloratura that Florez has. Florez's voice can sound slightly hard and nasal when pushed, but he can sing all the 1/64 micro-notes like nothing.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Guanqun Yu

Two years ago I saw this young soprano in Il Trovatore. I thought she was nice, promising, fresh-faced, but still a work in progress. What a joy it was then to see her last night in Cosi fan tutte -- she absolutely lit up the stage. She was exactly the right mix of immature, vain, but adorable as Fiordiligi. Her voice is exactly what Mozart sopranos are supposed to sound like -- creamy and silvery, and her singing has such cleanness. My review of the complete performance is at parterre box.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014


Disclaimer: The following is a purely fictional recreation of what Richard Nixon and the Berlin Wall might have thought about tonight's performance of I Puritani. The views expressed by the Nixon, Ehrlichman, and Haldeman do not reflect the views of the blog-owner. 

April 30, 2014, 12:46 AM, Air Force One:

Richard Nixon (R.N.): Well, Bob, John, I have to say, tonight, we really pulled it off. This will get the goddamned liberal media off our backs for good.

H.R. "Bob" Haldeman: Yes, sir, it certainly will. A great night for the presidency, yes, sir.

John Ehrlichman: Yes, it will please all those liberals for sure.

R.N.: To do what we did, you know, have a (inaudible) Soviet soprano, onstage, singing with an, an Afro-American tenor, and a Polack baritone, that's just, the New York Times never would have thought Richard Nixon could pull that off. And for the President of the United States to stand on that stage, and present the opera, it's like if I ... if I went to China or something.

Haldeman: (Laugh). And I already saw the presses. They said "NIXON UNITES WORLD ONSTAGE."

R.N.: Who said that, the Post?

Haldeman: Yes sir, the Post.

Ehlrichman: Well, goddamn.

R.N.: Bob, have any, uh, cabinet members called, saying they saw us on television, or anything? Have you gotten any, uh, reactions from them?

Haldeman: Well, not yet, but, you know, it's late ...

R.N.: Tomorrow, could you call around, to see, you know, how they felt about it? Whether they liked it?

Haldeman: Yes sir, tomorrow first thing in the morning.

R.N.: And I thought I Puritani really represented, you know, Anglo-Saxon values. Patriotism, love, loyalty, wholesomeness, there's none of that, you know, homosexual Jewish agenda onstage. The men and women were all dressed up decently, like upstanding people, and not half-naked. And we were sitting in a box but I didn't see any, you know, obvious homosexuals in the audience. I mean, one or two might have been, but I went to the men's restroom, and it was really clean in there.

And I thought that it would be, you know, strange, seeing a Soviet soprano kiss an Afro-American tenor, but they kept it really wholesome, I liked it.

John, what did you think?

Ehrlichman: Well, Mr. President, I thought that the music was lovely and all that but kind of boring. Slow love song, fast love song, slow patriotism duet, fast patriotism duet, slow girl is sad solo, fast girl is sad solo, and on and on. I mean, after the show I went up to Mariotti ...

R.N.: Who the hell is Mariotti?

Haldeman: The conductor, sir.

R.N.: (Inaudible)

Ehrlichman: I said to him, "You know, Maestro, if you took that entire score, with all those sheets, and you threw them into the Hudson River, would anyone know or care?"

Haldeman: No, no, John, you're wrong there. The composer of the opera was a man by the name of Vincenzo Bellini and he's a very famous opera composer. And the way they sang, well, that's the style of the operas of Bellini. It's very specific and he composed them that way for a reason. It's called "bel canto."

Ehrlichman: Famous or not famous, it was boring. And that Soviet soprano, she's a dish and all, but she looked kind of empty-headed, and notice when she threw the veil into those fake candles, the poor baritone had to run across the stage to get the veil because it was so obviously fake candles ...

Haldeman: Speaking of her, Mr. President, Mitchell did call, he said he saw us on television, and he said ...

R.N.: What did he say? Did he say anything about my speech?

Haldeman: No, well, no he didn't say anything about your speech, but he did say something about the soprano.

R.N.: Nothing about my speech? Goddamn great cabinet we have here.

Haldeman: It's Mitchell. He said that the soprano when she sang her high notes ... she sounded like she had her titty in a big fat wringer.

Ehrlichman: (Laughs) So true.

Haldeman: The soprano was attractive, I agree.

Ehrlichman: Good thing we didn't take Kissinger. He would have wanted to discuss international affairs with her, for sure. (Laughs.)

Haldeman: She's married to the conductor.

R.N.: So nothing about my speech, goddamn.

Haldeman: But I think everyone thought the tenor Brownlee was good. He's such a little guy, but he can sure sing!

R.N.: I still think the picture of a Soviet soprano with an Afro-American tenor singing together, on the biggest stage in the United States, I mean, the magnificence of it! We won't talk about the Polack baritone, he was sick. What the hell is his name, anyway? I couldn't pronounce his name in the teleprompter, made me so goddamn annoyed.

Haldeman: Mariusz (M-A-R-I-U-S-Z) Kwiecien (K-W-E-I-C-I-E-N). Now don't ask me if I'm pronouncing it right, because I don't know myself.

Ehrlichman: I noticed how everyone's voice in the last act got bigger. I could barely hear them in the first act and then they're bawling into my ears in the last act?

R.N.: Could it be that they were miked?

Haldeman: No, no, opera houses are not miked. That's the difference between opera singers and, you know, rock-and-roll singers. Opera singers have to learn to project their voices without a mike.

Ehrlichman: So after the show I went up to that Gelb guy, and I said, "Say, Mr. Gelb, those voices sounded awfully ... BIG in the last act." And you know what he said to me?

R.N.: What'd he say?

Ehrlichman: He said to me, "Well, this is purely off the record, but here at the Met, everyone mikes everyone."

R.N. and Haldeman: (Laughs) Well, goddamn.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Bis for Camarena!

During tonight's absolutely amazing Cenerentola Javier Camarena finished "Pegno adorato e caro" with a long-held D followed by an even longer high C, the audience predictably started screaming, just like opening night. This time though, after it was clear the ovation would not stop, Camarena ran back onstage to acknowledge the applause. And then ... an encore!!! Yes it was planned because the chorus also ran back onstage and Luisi immediately cued the band, but he deserved it. You could see the joy on his face as he held an even longer D and C. This is a guy who just has to open his mouth and the audience is already screaming.

Yes, I think it's safe to say ... Javier Camarena is ready for his close-up.

p.s. And the rest of the cast was also much improved from opening night, if that's even possible. But they were much more relaxed with the comedy, Luca Pisaroni sounded GREAT (as opposed to opening night, when he sounded ... ), and Corbelli and Spagnoli absolutely chewed the scenery and gave a master class in how to sing and act opera buffa. Joyce DiDonato threw in even more crazy machine-gun coloratura in "Non piu mesta." It really was just one of those nights.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

La Cenerentola - Viva Rossini!

To the left is a picture of Gioachino Rossini that I think reflects a bit on the man and his music. Behind the dark shadows and serious poses of 19th century photographs, you can see a sparkle in his eyes and a small but definite smile. Rossini's music, even his serious music, never loses that certain sparkle and joy, and the challenge for casting his operas has always been finding singers that can match the Italian master's spirit.

Friday, April 18, 2014

I Puritani

I attended the premiere of I Puritani last night at the Met. My review can again, be found at parterre box. Overall I don't think it's a must-see for the season.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Kristine Opolais's Butterfly

Last night I had the privilege of attending the remarkable Butterfly of Kristine Opolais. My review is at parterre box. An amazing singer and performer.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Vintage Balanchine

VAI has released an absolutely essential DVD for all ballet and dance lovers -- vintage performances of two of Balanchine's most important works, Orpheus and Serenade, danced by Balanchine's legendary "first generation" of New York City Ballet dancers.

These films were made in 1957 (Serenade) and 1960 (Orpheus) but the first thing you notice is how absolutely no caveat needs to be made about when these films were made. The dancers and move in a completely modern manner. When Balanchine was alive there was criticism that he preferred "pinheads" -- tall, thin women with small sleek heads. A cursory view of both films shows that this was a fallacy. Violette Verdy (Eurydice) had a rather womanly figure, and the corps de ballet of Serenade also shows a sea of unexpected curves.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Joan and Peggy's Thoughts on Boheme

I walked into the Metropolitan Opera to see the matinee of La Boheme and who do I see but Joan and Peggy also walking towards Lincoln Center. Afterwards I followed them to a local bar and recorded their conversation surreptitiously. We all witnessed the historic last-minute substitution of Kristine Opolais, who had just sung in last night's Madama Butterfly. (The scheduled Mimi, Anita Hartig, was ill.) I could say what I thought of the performance but Peggy and Joan's conversation is just so much more interesting.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Melanie Wilkes reviews Arabella premiere

Mrs. Melanie Wilkes went to the Met's Arabella last night, and offered her thoughts in a letter to her dear sister Scarlett. Here is her review at Parterre Box. As you can see, Miss Melanie did not enjoy the performance.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Claire Rutter

A friend of mine has sent me a couple links of a soprano I had not previously heard. They were so good I uploaded them to soundcloud.

Here's La Mamma Morta:

Her voice sounds very "right" in this music, very dark and rich. She also manages the climactic top B without any screaming. In contrast with the off-pitch, wobbly screaming of Patricia Racette in the current Met run of Andrea Chenier, every note seems completely centered and secure.

Here's her in some very different music, the act one finale of La Traviata:

Again, note the richness of the timbre, along with the surprising flexibility she has while negotiating the rapid coloratura of "Sempre libera." The high C's pose no problems for her, and she even caps it off with an old-fashioned interpolated E-flat.

This is Rutter in the final duet of Thais:

This opera isn't really done very often and the often treacly music of this duet kind of explains it, but I think Rutter sounds heavenly, with a totally easy negotiation up to top D, as well as a feeling of the voice "leaving the body" as Thais's soul leaves her body.

Finally, Caro nome:

Love this. Hard to believe someone who can sing "La mamma morta" can lighten her voice so much to negotiate "Caro nome." There's just the right amount of portamento to avoid making the aria sound mechanical, but every note is hit with accuracy.


Thursday, March 27, 2014

Happy Birthday to Me!!!

Tonight as a birthday present to myself I went and saw La Boheme at the Met. I reviewed the performance for Parterre box but the after-show was even more fun!

Here are some of the pictures:

Me and the absolutely lovely Mimi, Anita Hartig. She's been singing in Vienna for several years but run, don't walk, to see her Mimi in HD on April 5th:

The delightful Musetta, Jennifer Rowley:

And when Vittorio found out it was my birthday look what he did, how sweet:

Happy birthday to me!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Paul Taylor Dance Company's Trip Down Memory Lane

I made two trips this weekend to see Paul Taylor Dance Company, currently making their annual stop in New York. On Friday the program consisted of the evergreen Arden Court, the grim war-time drama Banquet of Vultures, and the sexy tango-inspired favorite Piazzolla Caldera. It was a typical Paul Taylor program -- eclectic, a mix of the very light (Arden Court), the very dark (Banquet), and the sexy (Piazzolla).

Boris: Do Russian Leaders Ever Change?

  René Pape, photo @ Marty Sohl There's a leader of Russia. He's corrupt and has killed people on his path to power. He only trusts ...